HOLLY RIDGE – For the first two games of last night’s volleyball showdown between Dixon and Southwest Onslow High Schools the tension reigned throughout the gymnasium as a pair of two-point decisions had the match deadlocked at 1-1 heading into what many coaches consider the critical game of any match outside of the fifth game – the third.
And that’s when the bottom seemed to drop out for the Lady Bulldogs. Dixon Coach Heather Moore said it was something that had haunted her team, at times, pretty much through the entire season – a refusal to put mistakes behind them and move on to the next point.
Whatever the cause it put the Lady Bulldogs into the second-seed out of the conference for the upcoming NCHSAA 1A state playoffs, and that will not be an easy road to travel.
Seniors Allison Brown and Caitlin Trexel combined for 15 service points, nine kills, and 35 digs but it was enough to hold off the Lady Stallions as Southwest Onslow defeated Dixon 3-1 (26-24, 23-25, 11-25, 17-25) on Wednesday in a game that decided the No. 1 seed out of the East Central 2A Conference in the upcoming NCHSAA 1A state volleyball playoffs.
Dixon (11-6), the No.-2 seed, will be at home on Saturday against James Kenan (9-9), the No. 3 seed out of the Tri-County 1A Conference dominated by Lakewood and Pender. Five (three to Pender and two to Lakewood) of the Lady Tigers’ losses have come at the hands of those two programs, who enter the playoffs with a combined 40-7 record. A win against James Kenan would potentially send the Lady Bulldogs to Burgaw for a match on Tuesday with Pender (20-5).
Southwest Onslow (15-4) will be at home for a least the first two rounds, starting Saturday with a match against Spring Creek (9-9), the No. 4 seed from the Carolina Conference.
“It’s disappointing, for sure,” Moore said. “I told the girls it would have been fantastic to be No. 1 because it’s a better position to be in but they should be happy they were co-champions in the regular season. Winning the conference title was one of our goals in the beginning.
“Southwest played fantastic, better than the first two times we played them, and they deserved to win tonight. Over the course of the season we have been unable, when we make a few mistakes, to let go and it becomes kind of contagious, and I think that’s what happened tonight. This is a game of errors and at times you have to shake them off and move on.”
The Lady Bulldogs made plenty of unforced errors – 54 of Southwest’s total of 99 points were unforced (balls hit out of bounds, into the net, or fell on the floor due to miscommunication) errors, and that will not produce victories almost anywhere.
Dixon made 13 of those unforced errors in the first game but they managed to hold on in a game that was tied 11 times – the last at 24-24 on an unforced error by Southwest. Alyssa Aquafredda knocked down a kill to put the Lady Bulldogs up 25-24, and another unforced Lady Stallions’ mistake made it 26-24, sending the match to the second game.
There was just one tie in the second game at 1-1 before Southwest took a scant 3-1 lead, maintaining that advantage all the way through the contest. A four-point surge gave the Lady Stallions a 10-5 lead but Dixon chipped away and trailed 23-20 and 24-21 late before a kill by Southwest’s Taylor Marley tied the match at 1-1. The Lady Bulldogs had 15 unforced errors in that game.
Southwest jumped out to a 6-1 lead in the third game, five of those points Dixon errors, and never looked back, A four-point run made it 17-8, and a subsequent five-pointer gave the Lady Stallions an insurmountable 20-10 advantage. They used a four-point spurt from 21-11 gave Southwest a 2-1 lead in games. The Lady Bulldogs had another 15 unforced errors in that game.
The Dixon girls gave it the old college try in the fourth game, tying the game three times at 2-2, 3-3, and 6-6 before a nine-point Southwest run produced a 15-6 lead that seemed to totally take the wind out of Dixon’s sails.
The Lady Bulldogs closed to within five at 15-10 but that would be as close as they would get as Southwest closed out the game, and the match, on two more unforced Dixon hitting miscues – giving them 11 in this contest.
“I would have liked to see us play as excited in the third and fourth games as we did in the first two but because of so many errors, and some outstanding play by Southwest, we lost that.”
Game time for Saturday’s has been set for 5 p.m.
Dixon: Allison Brown 4 points, 8 kills, 2 blocks, 1 assist, 22 digs; Miranda Davis 2 points, 2 aces, 11 kills, 21 digs, 1 block; Darian Meridyth 5 kills, 3 blocks, 3 assists, 5 digs; Catilin Trexel 11 points, 13 digs, 2 aces; Kelsey Pearce 5 points, 18 assists, 5 kills, 9 digs, 6 blocks; Alyssa Aquafredda 1 point, 6 kills, 5 digs, 1 block; Kellie Peterson 3 points, 10 assists, 1 ace; Bailie Saeger 1 kill, 3 blocks, 1 assist; Corki Aquafredda 1 kill, 1 dig; Kirsten Merritt 3 kills, 4 digs, 1 assist.
SWO: Amanda McCurry 5 kills, 1 block, 2 digs; Naya Burney 7 kills, 17 assists, 2 digs; Alexis France 2 aces, 8 kills, 6 digs; Hali Bozenhart 6 kills, 1 block, 1 dig; Taylor Marley 7 kills, 12 assists, 1 ace; Jessie Sbrocco 3 kills, 2 digs, 2 aces.